Yves here. I direct this article primarily as an example of “fact-checking” as a means of attacking individuals and groups outside the mainstream.
This article establishes that what Bernie Sanders said about drug prices is accurate: “We pay by far the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, in some cases 10 times more than people in any other country . The article did not dispute the claim that Americans pay more for drugs than patients anywhere else in the world. But Sanders’ story, as you can see from the title, portraying Sanders as depicting drug prices in the United States as typically ten times higher than in other countries, while he said nothing like.
This painting is from 2019 but it confirms that drug prices in the US are considerably higher than those that promote affordability, I suspect largely due to difficult government negotiations:
By Michelle Andrews, editor and former columnist for KFF Health News, which has also been published by The New York Times, Money, Fortune Small Business, National Geographic and Women’s Health magazines, among others. She previously worked for US News & World Report and SmartMoney magazines. Originally posted by KFF Health News And PolitiFact
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), whether in Congress or as a presidential candidate, has always taken strong positionsagainst the high cost of prescription drugs. Since becoming president of the influential Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions this year, it has made reducing drug costs a top priority.
It’s no surprise, then, that the senator, in a recent Sunday morning television interview, denounced the high drug prices in the United States and compared what Americans pay with what people in other countries have to pay.
“We pay by far the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs, in some cases 10 times more than people in any other country,” Sanders said on CNN’s “State of the Union” last month.
After all, it is a popular topic of political discussion. But 10 times more? It was a bit of a puzzle. We decided to check it out.
A complicated market
We first asked the senator’s office for documents supporting Sanders’ claims. But our repeated requests have gone unanswered.
So we started digging ourselves. What we found was that, as expected, Sanders was correct in asserting that drug prices in the United States generally exceed those in other countries. The magnitude of the difference, however, varies depending on the drugs and countries included in the comparison, among other factors.
And regardless of how the studies we reviewed sliced the data, the difference in drug prices almost never reached the level that Sanders indicated. Still, the experts told us his argument was valid. “I think the quote is on target, if a bit vague in scope,” said Andrew Mulcahy, senior health economist at Rand Corp., a global policy think tank.
Take, for example, the oft-cited 2021 study by Rand which found, based on 2018 figures, that drug prices in the United States were on average 2.56 times higher than drug prices in 32 other countries. Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development countries. These are mostly high-income developed countries. For brand name drugs, the gap was even greater: Americans paid an average of 3.44 times the price for these drugs. But the reverse was true for generic drugs, for which Americans paid only 84% of what people in the other countries studied paid. One exception: Turkey. Drug prices in the United States were almost eight times higher than in Turkey as a whole and 10.5 times higher than for brand name drugs.
Mulcahy, a co-author of the reportsaid that while the ratio for all drugs generally does not reach Sanders’ “10 times” mark, “for some drugs it does come close, if you look at the manufacturer’s list price.”
Manufacturer’s price, however, is not necessarily the best metric, especially if the idea is to capture what consumers are paying for.
This is because it does not reflect discounts and other discounts negotiated by insurers and pharmacy benefit managers that can lower the retail price of a drug. Most people with health insurance pay prices that include these discounts. The Rand researchers, however, used the manufacturer’s price because discounts are confidential and it is difficult to quantify their impact on net prices, the report notes.
Other studies have found smaller – though still significant – gaps than those cited by Sanders. In 2021, the Government Accountability Office published comparative price analysis of 20 branded drugs in the United States, Canada, Australia and France. The study, commanded by Sanders himself, found that retail prices were more than 2-4 times higher than they were in the United States
Another analysis, this one by the Peterson-KFF Health System Tracker, compared the prices of seven brand-name drugs in the United States, Germany, the Netherlands, and the United Kingdom, and also found that some prices in the United States United were about 2 to 4 times higher. like those of other countries. But for other drugs, the gap was smaller.
The drugs tracked in this analysis “tend to be specialty and expensive drugs no matter where you buy them,” said Cynthia Cox, director of the Peterson-KFF Health System Tracker, who co-authored the analysis.
Because the United States does not directly regulate drug prices like many other countries do, some prices here are more expensive. In 2019, the United States spent $1,126 per person on prescription drugs, including $963 through health plans and $164 people spent out of pocket, according to a KFF analysis of OECD data. Peer country spending was $552 per capita, including $466 by health plans and $88 in out-of-pocket spending by individuals.
Experts added, however, that price is only one element that affects overall prescription drug spending.
“If we’re spending more, it might be partly because we’re paying higher prices, but it might also be because we’re using more drugs,” Cox said.
Where Sanders might find support for his statement, according to Mulcahy, is in insulin prices. A 2020 Rand study for the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Health and Human Services Planning and Evaluation 2018 Insulin Price Comparison in the United States with those of 32 other OECD countries. Their findings: The US manufacturer’s average price for a standard unit of insulin sold in the domestic market was more than 10 times the international price, $98.70 in the US versus $8.81 in the US sample. OECD.
Such statistics have triggered a somewhat partisan rallying cry against drug costs. The price of insulin has been the subject of congressional hearings, including a this month summoned by Sanders.
Meanwhile, capping insulin costs at $35 per month for Medicare beneficiaries was a signature win for President Joe Biden in the Inflation Reduction Act. Members of Congress, Sanders among them, want to further reduce insulin prices. In a press release announcing a bill he introduced with Rep. Cori Bush (D-Mo.) that would prohibit manufacturers from charging more than $20 per vial of insulin, Sanders said, “It doesn’t There’s no reason Americans should pay the highest prices in the world for insulin – in some cases, ten times more than people in other countries.
When Sanders said that Americans “pay by far the highest prices in the world for prescription drugs,” he was on the right track. But his “10 times more” figure is off. While this comparison may be accurate for some individual drugs or classes of drugs — and he tempered his comment by saying “in some cases” — it exaggerates overall price differences, which are generally higher here but not 10 times greater than those of the rest of the country. the world.
A well-known exception is insulin: the price in the United States has been shown to be 10 times higher than in other countries.
But even this determination is complicated. The studies that showed a tenfold difference in the prices of insulin drugs referred to manufacturers’ prices, which do not take discounts into account. But that’s a misleading comparison because most people don’t pay manufacturer prices.
Sanders’ statement certainly contains elements of truth but also does not provide all the necessary information or context. We rate it half true.